Pubdate: Wed, 02 Apr 2008
Source: Whitefish Free Press (MT)
Copyright: 2008 Whitefish Free Press
Author: Sandra McDonald



Last week I attended the Whitefish School Board meeting regarding the
proposed policy of Random Student Drug Testing of all Whitefish high
school students involved in extracurricular activities.
Extracurricular activities include but are not limited to; sports,
band, speech & debate, student council, key club, choir, drama, honor
society and the student paper.

The proposed policy was drafted by the Drug Testing Committee with
little to no input from students, parents or the community.

The school board required the proposed policy to be made available to
the community for review and comment.

The draft policy and statement from the Drug Testing Committee can be
found online on the Whitefish School District web site. In addition,
there will be a Community Forum on April 7th, 7:00 pm at the Whitefish
Middle School auditorium. The next scheduled school board meeting will
take place the following night, Tuesday at 7:00 at the middle school.
The Whitefish School District Board of Trustees is comprised of
citizens elected to represent the community in setting District
policies. The Community Forum and school board meeting will be a good
opportunity for the public to discuss and comment on this important
policy proposal.

I feel adopting the proposed policy is ill-advised for many

First, the only federally funded, peer reviewed study conducted on the
topic to date compared 94,000 students in almost 900 American schools
with and without a drug testing program, and found virtually no
difference in illegal drug use." Furthermore, such astute
organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics have adopted
Policy Statements stating, 'Involuntary testing is not appropriate in
adolescents with decisional capacity-even with parental consent and
should be performed only if there are strong medical or legal reasons
to do so."

A drug testing program similar tothat proposed in Whitefish was
recently struck down in Washington state. "The Washington Supreme
Court unanimously found that Wahkiakum School Districts policy of
suspicion less urine testing for students who participate in
extracurricular activities is unconstitutional." It should be noted
that the Washington State privacy right is less stringent than that
specified in Montana's constitution, which states in Section 10: Right
of privacy.

The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a
free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a
compelling state interest.

Is the Drug Testing Committees proposed invasion of privacy a
"compelling state interest"? You may be sure that courts will
eventually be called upon to render that judgment.

I believe that subjecting students to random drug testing is degrading
and can undermine trust between students and teachers.

Other thoughts to consider: Drug testing can result in false
positives. Suspicion less random drug testing sends a message to
students that they are guilty until proven innocent.

Drug testing may deter at risk students from participating in
extracurricular activities, which are proven means of helping students
stay out of trouble with drugs.

And, drug testing may have unintended consequences, such as students
drinking more alcohol. [I was told students would not be tested for
alcohol due to the additional cost]. According to Safety 1st, a group
that promotes a "reality based approach to teens and drugs", "There
are proven alternatives to drug testing that emphasize education,
discussion, counseling and extracurricular activities, and that build
trust between students and adults".

What is legal is not always good policy. Good public policy comes from
involvement and participation by a wide cross section of the community.

I also believe we need to listen to the people who will be impacted
most by this policy, the students. Our school district should be a
leader in enacting drug abuse prevention policies that actually work,
and that do not expose the district to costly legal actions.


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